KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Shaun White arrived in Sochi trying to win two gold medals. He leaves with none.
White finished fourth in the men's halfpipe competition Tuesday night at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, ending his reign as Olympic champion dating to the 2006 Games in Turin.
The new halfpipe king is Iouri Podladtchikov, a Swiss rider with some of the biggest tricks in snowboarding, including his trademark trick called YOLO, which he landed here on his gold medal run. Even before he saw his score of 94.75, Podladtchikov tossed his snowboard in celebration.
"It all was meant to be. I was in a position where I was throwing down my hardest tricks with ease, it was like … there is no word for that," Podladtchikov said.
And this from a man who answered questions in Russian, English, German and Dutch in his post-victory press conference.
Five others couldn't top the rider more commonly known as IPod – who was born in Russia before moving to Switzerland with his parents at age 8. But White, the last rider to drop into the halfpipe, was the only one in the Olympic field with an arsenal of tricks that could keep up.
On this night, he couldn't do it.
White's final run was uncharacteristically sloppy, without a complete fall but with multiple bobbles, and received a score of 90.25, an improvement of his first run in which he fell twice, but only good enough for fourth place. White had been trying to become the first American man to win the same winter event in three consecutive Games. Speedskater Shani Davis will try to accomplish that feat in the 1,000 on Wednesday.
In White's first two Olympics, Torino in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010, he had laid down his winning run to open the finals, with his second run serving merely as a victory lap.
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Never before in an Olympics had White faced this sort of pressure. And he slid along the base of the course late Tuesday believing he could have done more.
"I didn't really get to break out everything, which is frustrating. Tricks are still in my pocket," White said. "I definitely knew what run I wanted to put down, and my dream scenario was I was going to land that first run and then maybe have the opportunity to do something that hadn't been done before. I tried to win. I went for it."
Japanese riders Ayumu Hirano, the youngest rider in the competition at age 15, and Taku Hiraoka won the silver and bronze. Americans had won eight of 12 previous medals awarded in men's halfpipe dating to its inclusion in the Olympics in 1998.
This is the first time the Americans have been shut out of the podium.
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THE AGONY OF DEFEAT IN SOCHI FULLSCREEN Silver medallist Jan Smeekens of the Netherlands pulls his hair after his first-place time is adjusted to second place in the men's 500-meter speedskating race. David J. Phillip, AP
Silver medallist Jan Smeekens of the Netherlands pulls his hair after his first-place time is adjusted to second place in the men's 500-meter speedskating race. Silver medallist Jan Smeekens of the Netherlands pulls his hair after his first-place time is adjusted to second place in the men's 500-meter speedskating race. David J. Phillip, AP FULLSCREEN
Silver medallist Jan Smeekens of the Netherlands pulls his hair after his first-place time is adjusted to second place in the men's 500-meter speedskating race. Shaun White (USA) on his disappointing first run during the men's snowboarding halfpipe finals. Bode Miller (USA) reacts after failing to medal in the mens downhill. J.R. Celski (USA) (258) following the mens 1500m short track speed skating finals, in which he placed fourth. Hannah Kearney (USA) after winning bronze during the ladies' moguls finals. Danny Davis (USA) crashes during his first run of the men's snowboarding halfpipe finals. Kikkan Randall of the U.S. reacts after failing to get through to the next stage of competition, during the women's cross-country sprint free quarterfinal. Russia's Anton Gafarov falls with a broken ski during his men's semifinal of the cross-country sprint. Ryo Aono (JPN) reacts to crashing in the men's halfpipe snowboarding qualification. Han-Bin Lee (KOR) (240) crashes in the mens 1500m short track speed skating heats. Ville Miettunen (FIN) reacts after crashing in men's moguls qualification. Kaya Turski (CAN) reacts after crashing in ladies' ski slopestyle qualification.
"I think it's great the American public and the world now knows that there are other snowboarders besides Shaun White," said U.S. rider Danny Davis, who finished 10th. "Shaun's, don't get me wrong, one of the most talented, one of the best riders there are, but there are guys who are just as good if not better and today Iouri was the best rider."
Perhaps it was a fitting ending to the Games for White after nearly a week of controversy. White pulled out of the slopestyle competition less than 24 hours before qualifying rounds, prompting rivals to suggest White may have been scared to lose. White withdrew from the event too late for the United States to replace him.
In White's absence, American Sage Kotsenburg won the first-ever slopestyle gold and became the first breakout star of the Games.
White said late Tuesday night that he backed out of slopestyle because of concerns about the design of the course at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, calling it a strategic move and a "better bet" to place all of his focus on the halfpipe, his signature event.
Yet when attention turned to the halfpipe by Sunday evening, riders were furious about the conditions of the pipe, from walls that were too vertical, to a flat bottom that on Monday was so bumpy that riders said it resembled a moguls course. White was among the many riders who were unable to practice their full Olympic runs and full complement of tricks in training, including one that was shortened by more than an hour Monday evening because of poor conditions in the pipe.
"To be honest, I woke up this morning not even knowing if I'd be able to land one run," White said.
The pipe was improved for Tuesday's competition, but not perfect, and the final session was sloppy as the best riders pulled out their best tricks. Several riders wiped out multiple times, including Americans Greg Bretz and Davis, each of whom failed to land a clean run in the finals. Bretz finished 12th.
Bretz and Davis received words of encouragement from fellow U.S. snowboarders, including Kotsenburg, who in a Tweet called Davis, "your favorite snowboarder's favorite snowboarder."
White's tumble from atop the Olympic podium might serve to further reveal the schism between White, whose off-snow endeavors include touring with his band called Bad Things, and the snowboarders like Kotsenburg who have rocketed to stardom here.
"I don't think tonight makes or breaks my career. I've been doing this so long. I love it. It's given me so much that you know I'm happy to take this for what it is and move on and continue to ride," White said. "I would always like to be remembered as so much more than just a snowboarder. I've got so much going on in my life, and this is one big part of who I am, but it isn't all of who I am."
Meanwhile, Podladtchikov was whisked away for the pageantry that comes with winning a gold medal in one of the Olympics' marquee events. There would be television appearances and the official medal ceremony and certainly one heck of a party.
Fellow Swiss rider David Habluetzel revealed part of Podladtchikov's plans.
"Vodka, caviar, and friends," said Habluetzel, who finished fifth.